Juvenile Detention Centers Closing Nationwide

By Zach Schalk

Across the country, states are closing juvenile corrections and detention centers—taking advantage of the decline in youth offenders to save much needed cash in the current climate of budgetary austerity.  Todd Richmond of the AP successfully provides the national scope of this trend:

During the early 1990s, though, tough-on-crime legislators turned to the juvenile system. Nearly every state lowered the minimum age for kids to be tried as adults or increased the kind of crimes that land kids in the adult system.

But juvenile arrest rates dropped, falling 33 percent between 1997 and 2008, according to the latest U.S. Justice Department data.

While the article points out the savings that have been made in many states, it is unclear if the steps are being taken for the right reasons or simply to benefit the bottom line. 

"We're locking up the right kids," said Bart Lubow, program director for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which helps fund such juvenile offender programs.  "It's about making smarter decisions."

As a result, the number of juveniles in state institutions has dropped. According to the Justice Department, the number of juvenile offenders declined 26 percent between 2000 and 2008, from about 109,000 to 80,000.

 Ultimately, juvenile justice policies should be judged by their effect on the kids and families who are forced to live the results.  Are the decisions being made the right ones?  You decide.

Posted on June 30, 2010 and filed under In The News.